PHOTOS: COURTESY OF PRESS OFFICE / “NOMACHI:LE VIE DEL SACRO” EXHIBITION, 2013-2014, ROME.
“Kazuyoshi Nomachi: Le Vie del Sacro” (The Ways of the Sacred) is the title of a great show hosted in Rome (Italy) at La Pelanda, Centro di Produzione Culturale, Piazza Orazio Giustiniani 4, from December 14, 2013 to May 4, 2014.
The exhibition is described as the largest retrospective devoted to Kazuyoshi Nomachi as well as the first time that the work of Japanese photographer has been exhibited in the West. There are about 200 images in the exhibition which is divided into seven sections spanning the photographer’s 40-year career. Nomachi has documented various peoples and ancient traditions in some of the world’s most remote places, always obtaining a level of discretion, even sacredness in his work.
Kazuyoshi Nomachi has always been a documentary photographer, since his first trip in the Sahara when he was twenty five years. In Africa was fascinated by the great outdoors and the strength of the people who live in such difficult environments. For over 40 years, around the theme “the prayer of the search for the sacred”, he turned his attention to the most diverse traditional cultures which are the expression of the peoples who inhabit the lands harsher, to the four corners of the world. Nomachi was able to capture the spirituality that runs through the landscapes of unique and extraordinary beauty, where the portraits and human figures assume an absolute dignity and blend with the context in almost pictorial compositions, dominated by a dazzling light, real and transcendental at the same time, as we admire in the wonderful exhibition in Rome.
THE SEVEN SECTIONS OF THE EXHIBITION
DESCRIBED BY KAZUYOSHI NOMACHI
“Ethiopia is a land of plateaux and deserts, divided in two by the Rift Valley, where tectonic activity continues to lacerate the African continent. The country is characterized by great diversity, and the areas inhabited by man range from uplands at an altitude of 3,500 meters to desert 115 meters below sea level. Eighty-three ethnic groups live here, each holding fast to their own culture. In the midst of a “Sea of Islam”, a Christian culture, which has been passed on from generation to generation since ancient times, still survives in these isolate uplands at an average altitude of 2,500 meters. During its 3,000-year history, Ethiopia has always maintained close relations with Arabia and Palestine across the Red Sea, rather than with Black Africa. In the mountains of North Ethiopia, I have seen churches carved out of the rocks and isolated monasteries where worship is the same as it was in biblical times.”
“The great river Ganges originates in the Himalayan glaciers, flows across the Indian plains for 2,500 kilometers and empties into the Bay of Bengal. This muddy river, swollen by monsoon rains, is a perennial source of irrigation for Indian agriculture, and its waters, profoundly linked to the veneration of Shiva, are worshipped. The sins of those who immerse themselves in the Ganges are washed away, and people who scatter the ashes of their dead upon its waters allow the deceased’s soul to be reborn in heaven, freed from the sufferings of reincarnation. I have visited several of the many sacred places along the banks of the river, which are always crowded with pilgrims. At the Maha Kumbh Mela festival, the main Indian religious event that astrologers have decreed should take place every 12 years, tens of millions of Hindus gather to pray, participating in ceremonies and rituals inherited from ancient India.”
“Islamic faith, that advocates the worship of Allah as the one God, was founded in the 7th century by Muhammad, a merchant in Mecca. One hundred years later it had taken a firm hold and expanded to constitute a vast cultural area stretching from the Iberian peninsula to India. The teachings of Islam – whose heart lies in Mecca where the Kaaba, the symbol of Allah, is located – have spread throughout the world, and today there are 1.6 billion believers. According to the Quran, all Muslims must undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime. I had the privilege of photographing the sacred site thanks to a Saudi publisher.
The pilgrimage is the fulcrum of Islamic faith, the source of its vitality. The Shiite Muslims live mainly in Iran and the surrounding regions. Since their credo is influenced by the religious beliefs of ancient Persia, there are facets of Shiite Islam that are not evident in the strict monotheism of the Arabian Peninsula.”
“The land gradually becomes more arid as you cross over the high Atlas Mountains then head south; the road leads to an extremely dry area composed of layers of sand and rock. As soon as you get past the hostile, towering rocks, you find yourself in a world of sand, sculpted in breathtaking, undulating dunes. The vast emptiness continues, even after driving for three or four days and is only broken by the green patches of the oasis.The magnitude of Sahara does not lie solely in its vastness: until a few thousand years ago, it used to be a part of a wet climate zone as can be seen from the images depicting life and animals carved in the rocks of the mountainous areas over a period of 8,000 years.
When I discovered the Sahara in 1972, I was completely captivated by it. On my return trips I felt time and again that I had perceived its true nature, which is hardly visible and seems almost hidden by a veil”.
“I was 34 years old when, in October 1980, I began exploring the Nile in a jeep that I had brought from Europe. The diverse nature and the people along the Nile absolutely enchanted me. I was particularly fascinated by a tribe of herdsmen living with their animals, like they did in prehistoric times, in South Sudan. Sadly, this region has been turned into a wasteland by the endless civil war and the famine that began in 1983. When South Sudan gained independence in 2011, I had a great desire to see what had happened to that tribe of breeders with my own eyes. After 32 years, I stood again in the endless wilderness where livestock and men coexist. Despite the fact that modern civilization has now penetrated the remotest regions in Africa, the lifestyle of these herdsmen has basically remained the same: they still live amidst the smoke from burning cow dung to ward off the mosquitoes.”
“My first travels to Tibet date to the end of the 1980s. The Tibetan plateau stretches into the heart of Asia, way beyond the Himalayas. The average altitude is 3,500 meters in these cold uplands, where vegetation is scant.
The people survive on pasturage and make their living raising yak, which are acclimatized to the high altitude. Tibet is a devout Buddhist country. After inheriting Buddhism from India, Tibetans deepened it through their unique sensitivity and their view of life, forged by the harshness of a rigid climate. In contrast to other Buddhist countries, where the religion became vulgarized over time and gradually distanced itself from the original form, the Tibetans have shaped their society through the enrichment of Buddhist teachings founded on the theory of reincarnation. Western countries now refer to Tibetan Buddhism as ‘the’ Buddhism. This is partly due to the Tibetans’ optimism and gentleness, which stem from their belief in the equality of life, nurtured by the finite ecology of Tibet and the Himalayas.”
“The North and south Americas were cut off from Eurasia until Columbus discovered the ‘new continents’, while the original Inca culture had expanded to the high Andes in the South American continent: however, when the Spanish arrived there in the 16th century, the vast Inca empire was destroyed in a flash. It was a tragic encounter between the strongest nation in the world, which sailed across the Atlantic to colonize the Inca, and a people who had no knowledge of the outside world. The Spanish conquerors forced a part of the population of the Andes to convert to Christianity. The Inca secretly incorporated the traditional Inca faith in the Christian religion, transforming it into a unique form of Andes Christianity. The origin of the Quyllur Rit’i pilgrimage, on which I went in 2004, lies in the legend that Jesus Christ incarnate appeared on a high mountain near Cusco, at a place the Incas believed to be holy ground.”
ABOUT KAZUYOSHI NOMACHI
Kazuyoshi Nomachi was born in Japan in 1946 in Kochi Prefecture. He studied at Kochi Technical High School and started taking photographs then as a teenager. In 1969 He studied photography under Takashi Kijima. In 1971 he began his career as a freelance advertising photographer and in the next year he made his first trip to the Sahara where he was shocked to see the strong life of the people living under the harsh environment of the area. This made him to switch his career to photojournalism.
Through his long experience at the extreme dryness of the Sahara, he gained an inspiration from the Nile which was fostered as the theme, The Nile ever lasting water flow that never dry up while running through the dryness of the Saharah. With this theme, from 1980 he started his coverage of the White Nile from the Nile Delta up to its first drip of water at an iceberg in Uganda and up the Blue Nile to its origin at the highlands of Ethiopia. The coverage of the two flows allowed him to capture the images of the strength of the environment and the people of this vast region of Africa.
Since 1988 he turned his attention to Asia. With the occasion of his coverage of the western areas of China, he got attracted with the people living at the extreme altitude of Tibet and the Buddhism. This encounter led to his visit to almost whole area of Tibetan cultural zone and initiated his visit to the origins and the whole area of the sacred Ganges which is also the roots of Hinduism from 2004 to 2008. From 1995 to 2000 Nomachi had access to the holiest city of Islam and travels for five years in Saudi Arabia, having the very opportunity to photograph the largest annual pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. It had been the first to document so deep and wide the miraculous pilgrimage of over 2 million Muslims towards their holy city, Mecca.
From 2002, he visited the Andes highlands, Peru and Bolivia with a theme of the blending of the catholic belief with the Inca civilization. His visit to this area still continue since then. Concentrated in 12 major anthological issues, his photographs have been published worldwide and appeared in major photo magazines, such as The National Geographic, GEO and Stern. The work carried out in the Sahara, along the Nile, in Ethiopia, Tibet and Arabia, have aroused great admiration over the years , even in Western countries and have won numerous awards, including the Annual Award of the Photographic Society of Japan in 1990 and 1997 and the Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon in 2009.